Pitching without a net

Dan Haren has been one of baseball's best pitchers -- first in starts, second in shutouts, seventh in ERA -- for the past two years.

No matter how good he is, he can't win a 0-0 game. Neither can Ervin Santana. Nobody can.

While Haren (1-4) hasn't been at his best this season, he admitted after Monday's 5-0 loss to the Oakland A's -- the Angels' eighth shutout this season, easily the most in the majors -- the lack of run support makes his work trying. All of the Angels' shutouts have come with either Haren or Santana on the mound.

"Pitching with a lead is obviously easier than a nothing-nothing or 1-0 game, but I've been in the big leagues for eight years, I've pitched in a lot of low-scoring games," Haren said. "Would I like a six-run lead in the first? Of course, but it just wasn't the case and I've got to be better."

Haren didn't sound all that frustrated Monday. He has an easy-going demeanor and rarely does. But it can't be easy operating with a margin for error that's as easy to find as a contact lens dropped over the side of a boat.

Haren has been dealing with some lower-back stiffness in his past two starts and his stuff isn't quite as crisp, but in a typical season, an offense would be working with enough flow to give you the occasional breather from the heavy lifting. Haren gave up a couple of runs in the fifth inning to put the Angels down 4-0 and it felt like the lights had turned off at Angel Stadium.

The Angels are 2-16 when the opponent scores first.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia, pressed to describe his team's frustrations on a nightly basis, blurted out Monday, "This team's too good to be shut out as much as we have."

"It's just going to be a grind. There's no such thing in this game as feeling sorry for yourself," Scioscia said. "There's only one way out of the hole and that's to crawl inch-by-inch, pitch-by-pitch and start to put good at-bats together, good offensive games, and move forward and that's what we're going to do."